Today I want to talk about health, fitness, and being a fathlete. But before I do as always I want to point out that health is not a moral, social, or personal obligation, nor is it a barometer to judge anyone by. People get to choose to be professional bull riders, climb Everest, and jump out of a helicopter wearing skis even though none of those things prioritize their health. Each individual gets to choose how highly they prioritize their health and what path they take and nobody gets to judge anybody else’s choices or results.
That being said, if health is something that you want to prioritize, it’s interesting to note that more and more research is showing that the best thing that we can do for our health is be physically active.
And I’m not talking about running a marathon - the research is showing about 30 minutes a day, about 5 days a week is all that’s needed. It doesn’t even have to be 30 consecutive minutes, you just need to get your heart rate up 30 minutes a day most days. I know that’s a lot different than what I used to think a few years ago- that I had to spend hours in the gym or it wouldn’t do any good. I’ve got a video at the end of the blog that I think does a great job talking about this, but first I want to talk about how we get the idea of physical fitness so twisted in this society.
We celebrate people who run farther, go faster, push the boundaries of human endurance. Those of us who push the boundaries tend to be proud of the level of our athleticism. But is this the best or only way to be healthy?
No! Abso-freaking-lutely not.
In fact, we might be healthier if we just took a few walks every week. Over a lifetime of playing sports, athletes usually end up with any number of injuries that a normal healthy person would never have.
That’s not bad, necessarily, but it concerns me that celebrating hardcore athleticism in society discourages people who could reach their health goals if they just moved 30 minutes a day on most days. I worry that instead of happily getting their heart rates up 30 minutes a day, people feel like they need to run a marathon or they just shouldn’t bother moving at all. I wonder what would happen if society would glorify dancing around your living room, gardening, hoop dancing, walking around the block – whatever kind of movement you would like to do, instead of glorifying only those at the most extreme. There are so many ways to be an athlete (and/or fathlete) and I think that we would do better to celebrate all of them!
There are people for whom testing the limits of their bodies is part of what they love about movement. That’s fine. Health at Every Size doesn’t preclude that, it just says that there are lots of movement options and all are equally legitimate.
I once heard an Ironman competitor say that “To make it through the Ironman you don’t need to be the best, you just need to be consistent and keep pushing forward.” I think that’s good advice for anyone who wants to incorporate movement. If you feel like you’re not getting enough movement in your life, find some stuff you like to do and do it. Try something new. If you like it do some more of it. If not, you don’t need to do it ever again. If you like to run and feel like you’d like to try a 5K, or whatever – try it. If you’ve had a dysfunctional relationship with exercise (i know that I did – I don’t even like to use that word), then try redefining that relationship.
Remember that you get to choose what movement you want to do. You can do a grueling solo workout in the gym or go on a walk with friends in the neighborhood. You can be healthy and happy even if you never run a mile, or you could run a marathon or triathlon or do any number of cool fathletic things! If you want to be healthier and/or feel like you’d like to move more then try moving a little more and see what happens.
No marathon necessary.
I thought that this video did a fabulous job of talking about the benefits of a little movement:
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